FOXBORO, Mass. — The Patriots locker room always had a place for Deion
Branch and that isn't some sort of metaphor for Branch's importance to the
franchise. The Patriots literally kept his locker just the way he left it the
day he was released on Aug. 31.
That was just the first sign that Branch was expected back
in New England at some point this season and apparently there's no time like
Branch returned to Gillette Stadium on Wednesday, after
signing a one-year deal, filling the empty locker space with his usual energy
and gregarious personality. The veteran wide receiver was all smiles as he
walked past teammates and media members on the way to his locker, feeling like
this is exactly where he belongs.
"It's always good to be here," Branch said.
"I love it here. It's a good thing [to be back]."
Branch's decision to wait for the Patriots phone call wasn't
an easy one, though. Other teams came calling during his time away, but even
with the temptation Branch knew right where he wanted to be.
"Yeah, a bunch of them," Branch said, when asked
if he'd received interest from other teams. "[They] just didn't suit me.
First and foremost, my family's first. Doing the things right for my family and
put myself in the right position."
That position is apparently in Foxboro.
Branch's love and admiration for Bill Belichick and Patriots
organization have been well documented over the years. That's one of the
reasons he feels so good about the return. The other? He wants to finish his
career where he started it all the way back in 2002.
"Yeah, I do see myself finishing my career with the
Patriots," Branch said. "But as far as, like I said, turning other teams down
that was just based off family. That was a family decision."
Sadly, not all of Branch's family was excited about
returning to New England, though. It turns out his two young children were much
more excited when the receiver was released at the end of training camp.
"When I finally told them [about getting released], I
said 'Kids, daddy got released. I'm no longer playing for the Patriots.' And
they were just like 'Yes. We're going back to Seattle,'" Branch said. "And
[when I re-signed] first thing one of my daughter's said was 'Daddy we're
going back to Seattle?' And I was like, 'No, baby.'"
Maybe not everyone will be satisfied by No. 84's decision to
return, but folks around New England certainly hope his wish to retire with the
team will come true.